Behind ‘Truth’: Tense Relations

Lauded for their “Truth” campaign, Arnold and Cris pin Porter + Bogusky may nonetheless face a tough fight in their defense of creative duties on the American Legacy Foundation account because of simmering tensions over two controversial radio spots, sources said.

Last week Legacy moved media chores on the $60 million account from Havas to an undisclosed startup agency. Havas had been moving the business from Arnold MPG to lead media agency MPG, New York. One source said Havas’ loss of media duties is a “dire warning” to the team of Arnold and Maxxcom’s CP+B that the creative review “will be an uphill battle all the way.”

That review kicked off Friday, with Boston-based Pile and Co. issuing selection criteria to at least a dozen shops nationwide, sources said. Agencies or agency teams with combined billings of at least $300 million may compete for the high-profile national anti-smoking assignment, according to a copy of the criteria obtained by Adweek.

Legacy wants a shop that can deliver creative that is “edgy, ‘cool’ and credible in targeting the rebel, loner and independent teen,” as well as “more sophisticated, thought-provoking” adult-targeted work, according to the paperwork. A review is mandated every three to five years by the foundation’s board.

Arnold and CP+B have handled Legacy since the foundation’s launch in 1999. In mid-2001, tensions flared between Arnold and Legacy after Lorillard Tobacco Co. filed an FCC complaint about the agency’s radio spot “Dog Walker.” The 60-second spot is now part of a lawsuit the tobacco company filed against Leg acy last February and that is now pending in Delaware.

The client was unaware that the spot, which broke in summer 2001, spliced together separate calls by a “Truth” teenager to Lorillard. The teen tells the receptionist he has a business proposal, adding that urea (a chemical found in cigarettes) is abundant in dog urine and that he has several dogs. After his call is transferred, the teen says, “I have a business idea. A pee proposal.” Lorillard hangs up. The spot ends with a voiceover: “You have reached the truth.” Legacy was also unaware of editing in a second spot, “Hearse,” in which a teen calls Philip Morris and talks to an operator, some of whose comments were edited out.

Legacy has feared that if the editing tactics were to become public, the ads might be seen as less than “the truth,” causing a PR embarrassment and giving Lorillard more ammunition for the suit, sources said.

Loril lard claims in court papers that “Dog Walker” and other ads violate the Master Settlement Agreement, which has provided most of Legacy’s funding. According to that agreement, Leg acy is barred from “personal attack on or vilification of” tobacco companies or its employees.

When Legacy learned how the spots were edited , it asked Arnold to conduct an internal review of the account. Legacy concluded that the decisions in question were made by junior staffers and that the executives on the account—managing partners Pete Favat, a creative director, and Lisa Uns worth, an account director—were unaware of the situation. Arnold and Legacy instituted a training program for staff on the account.

“Was I happy a year and a half ago? No. But I have been delighted since. Smoking is at the lowest point in 27 years, and [Arnold] deserves a lion’s share of the credit for that,” said Legacy president and CEO Cheryl Healton on Friday.

Legacy delayed conducting a re view at that time because “we did not want to create an impression that we were being unfair to [Ar nold],” Healton said.

Arnold president Fran Kelly said that aggressively championing the anti-smoking message “is not an easy challenge, and occasionally there is tension, and we have worked through it together to successfully accomplish the mission. … I don’t believe [any previous tension] will affect this review.” CP+B in Miami declined comment on the radio spots.

The chief factor working in the agencies’ favor may be that “Truth” is widely perceived as a success. A study in the June American Journal of Public Health found that in the first 10 months of the campaign, the percentage of the target audience holding anti-tobacco beliefs jumped from 6 percent to 26 percent.

Such findings, however, were not enough to keep Legacy from moving the media account. Legacy expects to sign a new agency this week, said client evp, marketing Chris Cul len. “What we had was not bad,” he said, “but we are about saving lives, and we deserve better than that.”

Initial materials in the creative review are due Feb. 13. Capabilities presentations are March 19-20, with final presentations May 6.